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May 29, 2013 / C H Thompson

What is feminism?

The following is an accessible insight into functionalist sociological theory, while a more detailed analysis of feminism is available.

Feminist social theory explores the fact that if you’re a woman your chances of becoming prime minister, a doctor, a solicitor, or a business leader are very much less than if you’re a man.

Historically it was argued women were ‘naturally’ inferior to men because of their biology. Feminist critiques of society are based on the idea that people are born more or less equal it’s just the way society is organised which causes the inequalities. Feminists’ argue because society is organised on patriarchal lines women suffer from inequalities.

This is best illustrated through the education system. Since the 1988 Education Reform Act, UK, girls have been given the same opportunities as boys resulting in girls doing better than boys in most subjects.

However feminists point out it just wasn’t society which was patriarchal, sociology was also patriarchal. For example the Marxist debate on social-class occurred on the assumption the only gender which suffered from class subjugation was men. For Marx it was as if women were add-ons, bits bolted on to their husbands like some sort of accessory.

Durkheim too discussed the division of labour as if women were ‘naturally’ occupying the private world of the home because of their biology. Therefore women were never a part of Durkheim’s ‘social-facts’ which means Durkheim’s ‘scientific’ approach was hardly that if he ignored a complete gender -women!

The image at the bottom of the page covers more of these key themes you need to grasp to fully understand. While the ideas feminist academics are available in much greater depth in the following pages.


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